MIDLOTHIAN — After months of construction the Midlothian Fire Department has put its three new Pierce fire trucks into service. The last truck started its service with the city on July 9.

“Due to the economic downturn and the tightness of budgets, we had not been setting aside funds to keep our fleet changed out on a regular basis,” Midlothian Fire Chief David Schrodt said. “As a result, our apparatus kept putting years on and years on. We were in a position last year where our oldest engine, our reserve engine, was 22 years old, which is really beyond what anyone would normally want to keep one. The other three engines were requiring more and more money just to keep them on the road.”

Schrodt said he talked to Midlothian City Manager Don Hastings about the situation and informed him that the department needed at least one new engine. Hastings agreed and began working with the city’s finance staff to provide funding.

While researching the subject further Schrodt took a tour of the Pierce Manufacturing factory in Wisconsin to look at its operations to see how they built their trucks.

“It was very impressive to me and I thought that it was a well managed and well run operation. In the process of the factory visit I (told) the dealer about our current situation,” Schrodt said. “The dealer mentioned that one or two of the cities in Texas had done lease-purchase programs with fire trucks.”

On returning to Midothian, Schrodt presented the information about leasing to Hastings. Hastings presented the information to the council and plans began to move forward on securing the lease of three fire trucks at a 3 percent interest rate.

As the city moved forward on the 2012 budget, Finance Director Chris Dick learned that with interest rates so low it would be cheaper to purchase the trucks on a tax note than to lease.

Dick presented the option to the council with Schrodt’s approval. The council voted to purchase the three fire trucks outright with a tax note, which had a lower interest rate of 1.5 percent.

Each truck was purchased for around $585,000 with an extended eight-year warranty.

The city’s 2003, 1996 and 1990 fire trucks were traded as part of the sale. The department’s remaining 2007 fire truck will be used as a reserve truck if one of the new trucks goes out for maintenance or repair.

The three new trucks have new technology installed that will make Midlothian’s firefighting operations run smoother.

 “The trucks have a wireless controlled monitor (deck gun) on top for heavy stream applications. The pump operator can stand on the ground with the control device and direct the water stream. They don’t have to be on top of the truck to do it,” Schrodt said. “The cabs are designed with much better visibility for the driver and the truck’s suspension can handle the road better. It has a good braking system on it. I think that we are going to see improved driving safety, decreased response time and more rapid extinguishing of fires.”

The trucks also feature a side mounted pump panel instead of just one mounted on a raised platform behind the cab of the truck. To monitor ongoing fire operations the pump operator can raise a camera that has been mounted on a pole on the truck.

The trucks also feature a newer compressed air foam system. Compressed air foam helps to extinguish fires more rapidly by blanketing the fire’s source of fuel to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply. The system is more simple to operate and easier to maintain.

Along with the foam system, the truck features a 1,500-gallon per minute pump and a shorter wheelbase making them more maneuverable.

The new trucks are black over red paint scheme, black painted wheels and a new door decal that incorporates some of the department’s history.

The decal features a Maltese cross with “Midlothian Fire Department” printed on it and a pair of crossed axes. In smaller letters it reads “W.W. Majors Fire Company Est. 1906.”

W.W. Majors was a philanthropist that lived in Midlothian. Majors also purchased the first mechanized fire apparatus, a 1918 Model-T Howe fire truck, that was operated by the W.W. Major Fire Company.  The truck was recently restored by the city at the Texas Fire Museum of Dallas in 2008. It is now on display in the fire department’s administration building.

Schrodt said he wants to thank the city council and staff for their tremendous support of the fire department and consistent support of public safety. One of the next steps is to further increase safety in the city.

During this year’s city council budget workshop meeting, Schrodt will propose the acquisition of a ladder truck.

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